The Bombay high court has issued a show-cause notice to the Maharashtra government directing it to explain how crucial files related to the redevelopment rights of over 4.6 lakh square feet of industrial land in Thane have gone missing.
The owners of the mill land had sought permission from the state for commercial development on the plot that was meant for industrial units and housing for economically weaker section (EWS) only. The mill workers approached HC and the matter was converted into a PIL. However, when HC asked the state for details, it filed an affidavit saying that all files related to the plot had gone missing.
Observing that the state could not “take the court as well as the interests of the ordinary citizen for granted”, a bench led by justice VM Kanade further directed the secretary of the state urban development department to file a reply to the notice detailing how the files went missing, identify those responsible for the same, and also list out the steps that the state will take to penalise the erring officials.
The files in question relate to that of about 4,63,000 square feet land belonging to a private textile company. This land was granted exemption from government acquisition under the now repealed Urban Land Ceiling Act on condition that the company will use it for industrial purposes and it would develop housing facilities for workers and those belonging to EWS on a part of the plot.
The company had proposed to develop the EWS housing on three vacant land parcels in the plot.
However, a reply to an RTI query filed by the wrokers’ union revealed that in 2009, two years after the Ceiling Act was repealed, the company changed its plans and sought permission to use the three plots for commercial realty projects.
The workers however, opposed it claiming that commercial redevelopment was against the interest of public.
The company meanwhile claimed that it had always had redevelopment rights to the entire area and had not sought a second permission in 2009 from the government to tweak its conditions.
However, when HC sought details of the redevelopment rights of the plot from the government, it filed an affidavit claiming that it could not provide any information since all files related to the plot from the year 2009 onwards had been lost.
Expressing “shock” at the affidavit, justice Kanade said that the state seemed to be “hand in glove” with the company.
“You do not refrain from usurping land of ordinary citizens for the interest of the industries. However, you have no concern for the ordinary citizen’s interest. It is thus, but natural that they will cry hoarse and come to the court,” HC said while granting three weeks’ time to the state to reply to the show-cause notice.